Northwestern thrilled after holding onto late lead


Northwestern thrilled after holding onto late lead

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) The Northwestern Wildcats hope they can finally move on from their fourth-quarter struggles.

After holding on for a 23-20 victory over Michigan State on Saturday, the Wildcats are very much in the mix for a quality bowl bid at the end of the season.

Northwestern (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) blew fourth-quarter leads in losses to Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan, so the Wildcats had reason to be anxious when Michigan State took over at its own 20-yard line with 1:29 remaining and needing a field goal to tie.

But Andrew Maxwell threw four straight incompletions, enabling Northwestern to close out the victory. The win came a week after an excruciating loss in overtime to Michigan after the Wildcats had lost the lead in the final seconds of regulation.

``We felt a little crushed last week but with a win this week we're hoping we can latch onto that momentum and get two more wins,'' tight end Dan Vitale said. ``Personally, I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing and I think good things are going to happen. We're getting more and more confidence each game.''

Now Northwestern can state its case even further to bowl representatives next weekend against Illinois in the regular-season finale. Among Big Ten teams, only Ohio State and Nebraska have more overall victories than Northwestern - and the Buckeyes are ineligible for postseason play.

Northwestern has a chance to play in a January bowl for the third time in four seasons.

``When you've had some tough defeats like we've had, you've got to shut out the noise and the negativity,'' coach Pat Fitzgerald said. ``With the 24-hour news cycle and social media, it's tough on our guys; it's hard as it's ever been. But we talked about that.''

The Wildcats held firm after their loss to Michigan, in which they allowed a 53-yard pass in the final seconds of the regulation that set up the Wolverines' tying field goal. Against the Spartans, Jeff Budzien kicked a 27-yard field goal with 7:30 remaining to give Northwestern a 23-20 lead.

Michigan State's final chance came in the last couple minutes. Fitzgerald was willing to punt to the Spartans (5-6, 2-5) on fourth-and-1 from the Northwestern 49.

The Wildcats' defense rewarded the coach for his confidence.

``To see the way that the program has responded I think is a terrific credit to our players. They've stayed the course,'' Fitzgerald said. ``We're going to set things out for them as far as a vision and a belief system and a value system. But it takes them to own it, it takes them to manage it every day, and it takes them to hold each other accountable to the Wildcat way, and they've done that.''

Michigan State enjoyed its own renaissance in 2010 and 2011, but this year has been rough. After beginning the season with Rose Bowl aspirations, the Spartans now need to win at Minnesota next weekend just to become bowl eligible.

All seven of Michigan State's conference games this year have been decided by four points or fewer. They'll need a win in the last one, no matter what the margin.

``You can only live in the present and the future,'' Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. ``We have to get ready for Minnesota and are in a situation to be playing for a bowl game. Credit Northwestern for making plays. I think they played extremely hard and they always do.''

The Wildcats don't need to worry about making a bowl - but every additional victory helps their case for moving up in the pecking order.

``We had a big pit in our stomach, a lot of pain in our stomach after last week,'' Vitale said. ``I think we released a lot of demons this game and it felt great to win.''

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.


Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

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Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Alex Ovechkin said the Caps would return to Washington with a tied series. The Caps captain is a man of his word as the Caps won both Game 3 and Game 4 to even up the series at two games apiece.

John Tortorella had no answers after seeing his Columbus Blue Jackets fall in Game 4, but he will have to figure things out quickly as the series shifts back to Washington for a pivotal Game 5.

The Caps return home with two straight wins and all the momentum. There's just one problem: No one seemingly can win at home.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 5

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 3:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC.

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 5 on Saturday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. ET in Washington. The series is tied 2-2.


Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 2:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 2:30 p.m. Tune back to NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 6:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

2:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
2:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
3:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Blue Jackets on NBC
5:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
6:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 5 is available to stream live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.


Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.